Genitals come in all shapes and sizes, and we at Marie Claire think sex toys should, too. For ages, I thought I was a freak of nature because of my ambivalence toward vibrators, particularly since so many articles about masturbation consider the vibrator as the end-all-be-all of female pleasure. It wasn't until recently that I discovered the tremendous world of stimulation beyond the vibrator, including toys that cater to people who prefer other types of stimulation, like penetration, grinding, and anal play. There's also a myriad of toys out there for partners to use together, whether they're inches away from one another or miles apart.
With that in mind, we've compiled a guide to the best sex toys from across the internet, with attention to the fact that not everyone experiences or seeks pleasure in the same way. We've also tapped doctors, sex toy founders, and Sextech connoisseurs for their advice on all things sex toy, so that you can feel secure in your purchases, engage in fear-free exploration, and have your best sexperience yet.
The Importance of Masturbation
For me, masturbation is an important part of feminism and female equality. The sexual education in this country too often takes female pleasure completely out of the equation. When I was in middle school, my abstinence-only health teachers failed to teach me and my classmates about the existence of the clitoris or female orgasm. We were also told that sex ends with and only takes place for the express purpose of the male orgasm―a strategy that The Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine says "reinforce[s] gender stereotypes about female passivity and male aggressiveness" and "undermine[s] public health goals and the safe transition of young people into sexually healthy adults."
As a society, when we not only decentralize but erase female pleasure from conversations about sex, many women never realize that sex can and should be enjoyable for them, and they never discover what they do and don't like. And by normalizing sexual encounters that are unpleasant (or just plain boring) for women, we open the door to normalizing coercive and abusive sexual relationships, too.
There are also a number of health benefits associated with sex, masturbation, and female pleasure in general. “Both masturbation and orgasms have a multitude of physical and mental effects on the body that can provide pain relief," says Johanna Rief, Head of Sexual Empowerment at sex toy brand Womanizer. "Both acts release dopamine, reducing stress." She goes on to point out that masturbation even helps with PMS and menstrual discomfort: "The muscle movements during orgasm, alongside the fact that orgasming stimulates your metabolism and blood circulation, minimizes the painful sensations of menstrual cramping.”
Pelvic floor specialist Dr. Amanda Olson adds that "the process of arousal helps to bring blood flow to the entirety of the muscles and nerves in those areas as well as the lymphatic system, which is really helpful to the overall health of those structures. Bringing in blood flow brings in oxygen and helps with flexibility, pliability, and overall relaxation." The pelvic floor muscles, which provide support beneath important organs like the bladder, vagina, uterus, and rectum, are also strengthened by the contractions comprising the female orgasm, and Dr. Olson says that this pelvic workout helps maintain continence as well as the musculo-skeletal health our spines need for daily activities like "getting in and out of our cars and picking things up without experiencing incontinence or pressure."
Still not convinced? Dr. Jess O’Reilly, Lovehoney Sexologist & Relationship Expert, adds: "Masturbation, pleasure, and orgasm in particular, also promote more restful sleep—which has its own set of health benefits. Notably, those who rest well have better cardiovascular and mental health, alongside lower blood pressure and stress levels. Pleasure also has the capacity to boost your mood, which can improve cognition, focus and patience (which of course can benefit relationships)."
Using Sex Toys as a Beginner
Dr. Olson reminds us that using sex toys does not necessarily need to lead up to penetration, sex, or even an orgasm. "Start slow by exploring the tissue in that area, and just gauge how your body responds to touch in a really slow manner, maintaining a nice, easy, steady breathing and pace," she advises. "It’s like being on a walk and thinking about different flowers or animals you notice one day as opposed to another. That thinking can occur with your sexual response, too: Maybe you can explore different types of lubricant and the goal can just be about seeing if you can relax completely, or steady your heartrate, or identify a new type of pressure that feels really good. Or maybe you notice something new today that doesn’t feel as good as it did before."
And for those who are buying a sex toy for the first time, or are overwhelmed by the incredible variety of what's out there, sex toy brand Zumio's Sextech expert, Bryony Cole, urges buyers to turn to authentic client reviews. "Reviews on the product site as well as on Reddit (subreddit/sextoys) help you get a sense of how real people are enjoying the toys you are considering," she says.
What to Look For in a Sex Toy
"I always remind people that there are a lot of different ways to wrap a present, and there are a lot of different ways to explore your sexual self," says Dr.Olson.
When you're looking for a sex toy, Cole reminds clients to "go [their] way and remember that there is no 'normal'!" Instead of getting hung up on those preconceived notions about what pleasure should be, she says that, when buying a sex toy, you should ask yourself a few main questions. "Are you going to be using it by yourself or with a partner? Do you want a toy that is internal, external, or both? Answering these questions will help you narrow down which type of toy to look for."
Beyond those basics, she advises to pay close attention to texture and quality. "I always aim for quality over quality. While you can get good quality for $30-50, always buy from reputable companies that provide transparency on materials and manufacturing. Choose a non-porous material like 100 percent silicone, metal, ceramic, glass, or wood. Materials like rubber and jelly can trap unwanted bacteria in pores which can lead to infections like thrush and bacterial vaginosis―all the things you want to avoid. If you would like to try something soft and skin-like, try silicone. Both glass and metal have a solid, smooth feel and are good for temperature play, meaning you can heat or cool them for extra sensation."
How to Clean Your Sex Toys
This is an important and oft-overlooked aspect of using sex toys. If it's going anywhere near your genitals, it should be clean, my friends! Bryony Cole agrees: "Keeping your toys clean is important for toy lifespan (and your health!). Look for organic, water-based anti-bacterial cleaners that will be kind on your body and the sex toy. It’s always good to check your products, as some toy cleaners aren’t suitable. Ideally, opt for mild soap and warm water and you will be set."
Still don't know where to start? Explore options like this cleaning spray (opens in new tab) formulated specifically for sex toys, or these pH-balanced wipes (opens in new tab) that can be used on both toys and on your most intimate areas.
The Best Sex Toys for Beginners
Bryony Cole tells first-timers not to complicate things: "If it’s your first toy, my tip for choosing is to start small and start simple!" Below, check out a few of our favorite gentle, simple-yet-versatile toys that are perfect for those who are just beginning to explore the world of sex toys.
You can choose Zumio products based on the type of sensation you prefer―whether that's "long and slow," "soft and gentle," "quick and fast," and so on. This particular model promises broad, even stimulation, and for that reason it's great for those still discovering where they most like to be touched.
Emojibator Eggplant Emojibator
This is one of Emojibator's "beginner vibrators," and is shaped like an eggplant to make your sexual experience more playful and lighthearted. According to reviews, it's also quiet, well-made, and has a surprising number of settings.
The Best Vibrators
Kris Fretz, co-feounder of sex toy brand Emojibator, advises buyers to pay close attention to materials, shape, and texture when purchasing a new vibrator. "The materials and shape of the vibrator are often the most influential factors in how vibrators impact everyone differently," she says. "Personally, I’m more sensitive to the vibrator’s texture vs. intensity, so I look for toys that are made with medical grade silicone so they are safe for bodily insertion. Sometimes a toy can be made with other materials such as metal, and in those cases it’s important to not overuse the toy beyond the recommended usage time and spare your most sensitive areas from burning up!"
Lovehoney Rose Toy Clitoral Suction Stimulator
This toy, with its suction function, is great for those who want to simulate the sensation of receiving oral sex. Reviews warn that the toy isn't exactly silent, but it sounds like it's worth it. One satisfied customer in particular wrote, "Don't know how l lived without it."
Magic Wand Mini
I know I said I'm not a vibrator girl, but this particular product changed the game. Enough said.
Best Sex Toys for Penetration
While some people vastly prefer the clitoral stimulation that vibrators provide, others are devotees of penetration. "Preferences simply vary from one person to another," says Dr. O'Reilly. "Just as some people love oysters and others loathe them, personal tastes are highly varied." If you're concerned about the messiness of penetrative toys, keep in mind our aforementioned clean-up tips, and keep an eye on what your toys are made of, too. "Silicone or borosilicate glass toys are good options, as they can be cleaned easily," Dr. O'Reilly reminds us. "ABS plastic and stainless steel are also good choices. Porous materials (jelly, plastic, rubber, PVC) are harder to clean, so you can always use condoms with these toys for ease of cleanup."
plusOne G-Spot Massager
This piece sits inside your vagina and is curved to hit your G-spot just right. With 10 different vibration settings, this little toy can go a long way, and you can bet that the brand, plusOne, will do you right: It's been rated the #1 sexual massager brand by Nielsen.
Lovehoney Lifelike Lover Classic Realistic Dildo 6 Inch
This picture is worth a thousand words, but I'll add a few more: It's the closest thing to the real thing, for those who want a more traditional experience, as you can get. Nearly every reviewer on Lovehoney seems floored by how "realistic" the product feels inside of them.
Best Toys for Grinding
Many women prefer to be stimulated by grinding against their hands or inanimate objects like pillows and furniture. This form of masturbation stimulates the clitoris indirectly, which is excellent for those who find direct clitoral stimulation overwhelming or even painful. "When you grind your lips against any object (from a vibrator to a lover’s pelvic bone), you’re likely stimulating the internal bulbs and legs of the clitoris. They’re comprised of erectile tissue―much like the penis, so it makes sense that the rubbing feels pleasurable," explains Dr. O'Reilly.
"Of course, almost any toy can be used 'off-label' for rubbing and grinding," she reminds us, but for an experience specifically catered to al your grinding needs, check out the pieces below.
Rocks-Off Ruby Glow 10 Speed Clitoral and Vaginal Stimulator Massager
This toy can be used over clothing and has optional vibration settings, so you can stimulate your clitoris and/or your vagina to whatever extent is most comfortable for you. It was also highlighted by Vice as an A1 option for humping and grinding―so long as you don't mind the large toy's lack of subtlety.
Cute Little F*ckers Coral Starsi!
This vibrator is made to fit easily within the palm of your hand, and is designed with trans people in mind so that everyone, no matter their genitalia, can find a pleasure setting that suits their particular needs. One reviewer, a trans woman, gushes, "I've never wanted to play with a toy so often. Easy to clean, too. Highly recommended!"
Best Partner Toys
Sex toys aren't just for solo play, my friends! Dr. O'Reilly points out that "the mere presence of a sex toy often leads to new conversations about everything from desires and fantasies to boundaries and hesitations. These vulnerable conversations have the potential to deepen intimacy and connection. The novelty of a toy can also heighten passion, as it can offer a simple reminder to break your routine and try something new."
We've previously spotlighted this innovative vibrator, which is designed to strap into your vulva and deliver clitoral stimulation while allowing for penetration. You really can have it both ways, y'all.
Ohnut Buffer Rings
This product is fantastic for those who don't want deep penetration, or who are experimenting with anal sex for the first time and want to ease into it. One customer review, who feared thwarted intimacy with her partner because of pain during penetration, even referred to these rings as her "sex savior." The rings slide onto the base of a penis or strap-on and can be added or removed with ease. Think stack rings, but sexy.
Best Remote-Controlled Sex Toys
"Using remote-controlled sex toys is a great opportunity to explore eroticism throughout the day regardless of your location (for example, We-Vibe’s toys (opens in new tab) are app-enabled, meaning that partners can use their toys from any distance)," says Dr. O'Reilly. "They offer novel sensations and inspire playfulness which, in turn, creates stronger relationships because it improves openness and exploration."
Babeland Remote Control Vibrating Lace Panty Set
There's a special pocket inside this pair of underwear so that you can secure this vibrator in place and let your partner (or yourself) control the sensations remotely. It's pleasure without taking your pants off! Who could ask for more?
Kiroo Titan & Fuse Couple Set
This isn't your run-of-the-mill remote sex toy. The vibrations and sensations of one toy are meant to correspond with one another, so every time your partner moves around in or touches the touch pads on their device, you feel it in your own. In the words of Kiiroo's sexperts, this is enough to send each of you "over the edge."
Best Anal Toys
According to a 2009 study published by Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, women who consensually engage in anal sex do so, first and foremost, to pursue pleasure―a point that is often overlooked and under-researched, resulting in what the authors call a "pleasure deficit." As a result, women are often made to feel ashamed for wanting to engage in anal stimulation and aren't sure where to begin.
Below, check out some of the best anal sex toys so that you can stimulate your senses, either alone or with a partner. Per Planned Parenthood's advice, though, "The anus doesn’t make enough lubrication on its own for comfortable anal sex, so it’s important to use plenty of lube. Go slowly. Stop if anything hurts and let your partner know how you feel — sex that’s painful or uncomfortable shouldn’t continue." This goes for all sex―solo or with a partner, no matter what part of the body you're focusing on!
NS Novelties Colours Anal Trainer Set
For those who want to begin their journey with anal stimulation but don't know where to begin, this set provides three anal vibrator options of different sizes so that you can start as small as you need. According to both reviewers and the brand, this toy is ideal for those looking to "build up" to increased anal stimulation.
b-Vibe Triplet Plug Fuchsia
What one very satisfied customer refers to as "one of the bost anal toys on the market," these vibrating anal beads feature two separate motors, offering 15 different types of stimulation (!!) for your best anal O yet.
Gabrielle Ulubay is an E-Commerce Writer at Marie Claire and writes about all things fashion and beauty. She's also written about politics, gender, and sex for publications like Bustle, HuffPost Personal, and The New York Times. As a film school graduate, she loves all things media and can be found making art when she's not busy writing.
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